Pickup trucks have dominated the American market for the longest time, and this isn’t bound to change anytime soon. There are tens of pickup trucks available today, and unless you are clear with your requirements, you are sure to get confused about what to pick. With electric trucks entering the market, the confusion is only going to intensify.
When we sat down to pick the best trucks of 2021, we knew we were in for trouble given the numerous choices that we have. So, to make it simpler, we decided to go with new models that were launched in 2021. Presenting to you, the five best pickup trucks of 2021. Spoiler alert – two of these are EVs!
Front three-quarters shot of a black Ford F-150 Lightning
UPDATED, MARCH 2023: Most of the trucks in this article have now been on the market for nearly two years, and as such, we have updated this article to reflect more current pricing of 2022 model year pickups on this list. Also included is useful consumer information like any recalls or issues with the 2022 models.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning
An F-150 Lightning XLT towing a boat
Ford’s first all-electric truck came out in 2021, and it seems like a pretty decent package overall. The F-150 Lightning is the electric version of the F-150 pickup and is the first full-size mass-production truck to hit the market. The gas-powered F-150 has been Ford’s bread and butter for many decades, so the automaker needed to roll out a well-thought-out package that would tick all the boxes.
It will be offered in three trims plus a work truck trim called the F-150 Lightning Pro. All of them are available only in the SuperCrew body style. The design is undoubtedly a Ford, without diluting its own identity. Up front, there’s a full-width LED strip that encompasses the closed, stylized grille. It comes with features like 20-inch wheels in the top trim, zone lighting, etc. A 9.6-kW Pro Power onboard generator comes as standard on the higher trims.
Inside the cabin, you get things like a 15.5-inch touchscreen system, 12-inch digital instrument cluster, 18-speaker B&O sound system, etc. in the top-spec model. You also get leather seats, Max Recline seats, Interior Work Surface, etc. as well. A premium, practical cabin overall. As for the towing and payload capacities, the EV can tow up to 10,000 pounds and haul up to 2,000 pounds. However, you can’t have the best of both in one truck.
F-150 Lightning XLT Camping With Tent and Ladder Attached To Bed Of Truck. Mega Frunk Is Packed With Gear.
This Ford electric truck comes with a dual-motor setup and a four-wheel-drive system as standard on all trims. You get to pick between a Standard Range battery pack and an Extended Range pack. The F-150 Lightning hit the market in 2021 with a base price of $39,974 for the Pro work truck model and $52,974 for the non-commercial base model, but those figures have since skyrocketed.
The 2023 model now commands $55,794 for the base Pro model. As such, 2022 Lightning models are selling for at very near their MSRP price. Those who can find a still-new 2022 model should note that the F-150 Lightning is eligible for the $7,500 EV tax credit on models with an MSRP of up to $80,000.
Read our complete review of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning here.
2022 Rivian R1T
Front View Angle Shot Of Rivian R1T
We’ve known about the Rivian R1T’s existence for around half a decade now, but since the production version came out this year, it has found a spot on this list. The R1T is an absolute game changer and is one of the first electric pickup trucks to be produced. It isn’t a conventional work truck like the F-150 Lightning, but is more of a lifestyle vehicle with insane performance specs and a lot of overlanding capabilities.
The R1T looks like another species altogether as there are single-bar LEDs at the front and back. It comes with a gear tunnel between the truck bed and the rear doors that can be used as a storage unit or to retrofit things like a pull-out kitchen to enhance your overlanding experience. The R1T comes with a maximum towing capacity of 11,000 pounds and a maximum payload capacity of 1,760 pounds.
An outdoor shot of two 2022 R1T’s side by side
The R1T features a quad-motor setup as standard that churns out 800 horsepower combined! This allows it to sprint to 60 mph in three seconds. The automaker will be offering it with two battery packs to choose from.
The cabin is tech-savvy and a 15.6-inch touchscreen takes the center stage here. An all-glass panoramic roof will be available as well, and in the next model year, you’ll be able to opt for a removable roof. The automaker has also offered its driver assistance system called the Driver+ and it can automatically steer, adjust speed, and change lanes on the driver’s command. The setup includes 11 cameras, five radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 360-degree field vision. Oh, and how can we forget the Tank Turn?
The Rivian R1T will be offered with three packages – Explore, Adventure, and Launch Edition. The Explore starts at $67,500, whereas the other two start at $73,000. Options can push the price north of $80,000, and the value of these all-electric trucks hasn’t diminished much since it hit the market.
The 2022 R1T has been recalled four times by the NHTSA. The recalls include improper deployment of the passenger airbag, a loose steering knuckle fastener was recalled for potentially separating, and a seatbelt anchor was recalled for potentially not adequately restraining the passenger during a crash.
Read our in-depth guide of the 2022 Rivian R1T here.
2022 Ford Maverick
Front 3/4 view blue Ford Maverick towing jet-skis
The big, burly trucks aside, we now have a new compact truck from Ford, thus filling a void that had been unfulfilled for a very long time. With the F-150 and the Ranger occupying the full-size and the mid-size pickup truck segments respectively, Ford now has a complete truck portfolio, catering to all kinds of potential truck owners whose needs would vary from an adventure vehicle to an out-and-out workhorse.
The Maverick is offered in three trims. It is based on the same C2 platform that also underpins the Escape and the Bronco Sport. Looks are subjective, but the Ford Maverick has a ‘please all, offend none’ design philosophy. The automaker has played it safe by not offering a polarizing design. The truck is available only in the SuperCrew layout with a 4.5-foot bed. Ford calls this the Flexbed and says it is “packed with standard features and opportunities to transform the cargo box into a complete maker space”.
Three quarters shot of a yellow 2022 Ford Maverick parked
Inside the cabin, you’ll get an eight-inch touchscreen system in the top-spec model that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The cabin, otherwise, doesn’t have anything noteworthy. You’ve got the general stuff like leatherette seats in the Lariat trim, two USB ports, keyless entry, etc. You get two 12-volt pre-wired bed power sources bed and lighting as well.
The Ford Maverick is offered with two engine options – a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder hybrid engine that produces 162 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor adds some extra power, pushing the combined power output to 191 ponies. A CVT routes power to the front wheels here. This engine is available with an all-wheel-drive system and is paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It can tow up to 4,000 pounds with the necessary packages and can haul up to 1,500 pounds.
The 2022 Ford Maverick started at $19,995 and topped out at $25,490. These are the base prices of the trims. Adding the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine upped the price by $1,085, and opting for an all-wheel-drive system another $3,305. There’s also a destination cost of $1,495 that’s not included here. Gets a little pricey, doesn’t it? That’s evidenced by 2022 Maverick models, those that haven’t been crashed, anyway, selling for $26,000 to nearly $40,000 today.
The NHTSA has issued six recalls for the 2022 Maverick. These include a potential fuel leak from fuel tank damage, improperly attached seat belts, trailer brake failure, engine compartment fire risk, and side curtain airbag malfunction.
Read our in-depth guide of the 2022 Ford Maverick here.
2021 Hyundai Santa Cruz
Hyundai has stayed away from pickup trucks all its life, but soon realized how much they’re in demand. The automaker finally took the plunge and unveiled the Santa Cruz concept at the 2015 Detroit Motor Show. In 2021, the automaker finally rolled out the production version of the Santa Cruz. It calls this compact pickup truck a ‘Sports Adventure Vehicle’, thus targeting customers outside the pickup truck market as well.
Just like the Ford Maverick, the Santa Cruz is also a unibody construction. It is based on the same platform as the Tucson, and can essentially be counted as a Tucson with a bed. It looks sharp and aggressive, unlike the plain Jane Ford Maverick. The cascading grille up front is unmistakably a Hyundai, and there is no way this South Korean truck gets lost in the crowd. It will be offered in four trims in total.
A rear 3/4 action shot of a Hyundai Sant Cruz
The truck, err., SAV, comes with features like power-adjustable seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, under-seat storage at the rear, etc. You get a 10.25-inch touchscreen system on the higher trims and an eight-inch on the base models. The cabin is a nice place to be in, which can be said about most Hyundais.
Hyundai offers the Santa Cruz with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine in two different states of tune. The base models come with a front-wheel-drive system, whereas the top-spec features an all-wheel-drive system as standard. The towing and payload capacities are quite decent for a unibody, compact truck. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds in its best avatar and haul up to 1,410 pounds.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz started at $23,990 with pricing up to $39,720. Opting for the optional goodies and prices stretched to around $45,000.
Four recalls have been issued for the 2022 Santa Cruz by the NHTSA, including an urgent recall for a fire risk related to the tow hitch harness. The Santa Cruz has also been recalled for detaching roof moldings, loss of drive power due to the engagement of a limited-mobility drive mode, and a leak in the turbocharger oil supply pipe that increases the risk of fire.
Read our in-depth guide of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz here.
2022 Toyota Tundra
2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone front three-quarter view
The Tundra is a solid truck that’s been around for a long time now. The second-gen model was so good and fuss-free that the automaker milked it for 14 years on the trot! But, realizing that it was now getting too old in the tooth, especially under the skin, Toyota finally brought out the third-gen Tundra for 2022. Since it isn’t a mere facelift, it has managed to find a place on this list.
The Tundra looks a lot more aggressive and sharper than the model it replaces. There are some notable changes out here, like a smaller windshield and a beltline that rides lower than the hood. These design changes are bound to affect the outward visibility when seated inside the cabin. We also noticed that the wheels now have six lug nuts that point at increased payload capacity. It is offered in six trims, two body styles – Double Cab and CrewMax, and three-bed sizes – 5.5-foot, 6.5-foot, and an 8.1-foot bed.
The cabin is refreshed and you get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. You also get a 14-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The lower trims will feature an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. As for the towing and hauling capabilities, the Tundra can tow up to 12,000 pounds and haul up to 1,940 pounds; both better than before, but not as good as the Big Three.
2022 Toyota Tundra Platinum in Blueprint
The biggest change comes under the hood. The Tundra now comes with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that’s offered in three states of tune. It makes 348 horses and 405 pound-feet of torque in the standard tuning, and 389 ponies and 479 pound-feet of twist in the more powerful avatar. Irrespective of the configuration you pick, the engine will be mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The Toyota Tundra starts at $35,950 and goes up to $57,690 before options and destination fees. With the Tundra’s high-reliability ratings among its competitors and established loyalty to the Tundra, buyers shouldn’t expect to pay too much under the MSRP for used 2022 Tundras. Read our complete review of the 2022 Toyota Tundra here.